The Regulation and Significance of Intrapulmonary Arteriovenous Anastomoses in Healthy Humans
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Intrapulmonary arteriovenous anastomoses (IPAVA) have been known to exist as part of the normal pulmonary vasculature for over 50 years but have been underappreciated by physiologists and clinicians. Using a technique called saline contrast echocardiography we and others have demonstrated that during exercise or when breathing low oxygen gas mixtures IPAVA open, but breathing 100% oxygen during exercise prevents them from opening. However, the mechanism(s) for this dynamic regulation and the role IPAVA play in affecting pulmonary gas exchange efficiency remain unknown. In Chapter IV the infusion of epinephrine and dopamine into resting subjects opened IPAVA. While it is possible this opening was due to the direct vasoactive action of these catecholamines, the opening may simply be due to increases in cardiac output and pulmonary artery systolic pressure secondary to the cardiac effects of these drugs. In Chapter V I used Technetium-99m labeled macroaggregated albumin (99mTc-MAA) to quantify blood flow through IPAVA in exercising healthy humans. Initial attempts to correct for attenuation of the emitted signal were unsuccessful due to the time necessary for data acquisition and the resulting accumulation of free-99mTc. However, I used a blood sample to calculate freely circulating 99mTc which could be subtracted from the shunt fraction. Using this procedure I demonstrated for the first time using filtered solid particles that breathing 100% oxygen reduces blood flow through IPAVA during exercise. Finally, in Chapter VI I tackled the elephant in the room surrounding IPAVA in healthy humans: do these vessels play a role in pulmonary gas exchange efficiency? Our data suggest that the efficiency of pulmonary gas exchange is dependent on the driving pressure gradient for oxygen and the distance to blood flowing through the core of IPAVA. As such, with increases in exercise intensity the diffusion distance and transit time of blood at the core of IPAVA prevent complete gas exchange, thus blood flow through IPAVA acts as a shunt. This dissertation includes previously unpublished co-authored material.